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  • Joan Carris

Being a Senior

Updated: Feb 10, 2021

"Wit is the only wall between us and the dark."

--Mark Van Doren

Like many of us, I remember being a lowly, humble high school freshman in the fifties—back in the long ago. Oh, to be a senior! Dressed in the current, approved clothing, my classmates and I would project that same je ne sais quoi… as soon as WE were seniors.

The senior couples “going steady” appeared glued together as they strolled around the school. For example, Wade and Peggy. He—darkly handsome, with Elvis Presley hair—was known to be “fast” and so was she. Everyone assumed they were “doing it.” Whatever that meant.

All of this was uncharted territory. In sixth grade we had watched a Walt Disney coming-of-age film so delicate and sweet that it was useless. (The music was wonderful, of course, a beloved Disney trademark.)

The only actual fact about sex that made its way into our minds was that after having sex, the female could end up pregnant. A dire fate, the girls agreed. Vague rumors circulated that some senior girl had been sent away to have a baby. The “boyfriend suspect” continued blithely in life as far as we could tell.

BUT… staying out of trouble seemed to depend on the female saying “Whoa!” to a teenage boy who was a two-legged raging hormone, according to the older girls. Birth control was an iffy thing in the long ago, so girls were typically cautious—curious, but terrified of getting pregnant. Our mothers, all raised by exceedingly Victorian mothers themselves, were so unnerved by the topic of sex that they never mentioned it.

Fortunately I was a nerd. I was also shaped like a lumpy conduit pipe, could spell almost anything, and loved writing assignments, all of which kept boys away in droves. I started dating in college, where nearly everyone intended to graduate with marketable skills. As college seniors, our eyes still focused on the future, we graduated, and many married then or soon after. Yay! Legal, approved sex, if we weren’t too tired. Or if the baby wasn’t screaming in the next room. Or if our teenager hadn’t stayed out way beyond her curfew, rendering us senseless with fear.

And now, in early 2021, we are seniors again, with early eligibility for vaccination against the Covid-19 pandemic paralyzing the world. Oh, lucky us! Seniors again. We can stay out as late as we want, if any destinations are open. We don’t have to get up early and go to work. We can smoke, drink ourselves silly, and throw up on the shrubbery. We can have sex any time we want…except we’re seniors. Oops.

Writers Noted for Substance and Humor:

Richard Russo--Empire Falls; Nobody's Fool; Straight Man

Farley Mowat--The Dog Who Wouldn't Be; Owls In The Family; Never Cry Wolf

Carl Hiassen--Sick Puppy, et al. (not Razor Girl --ugh)

Robert B. Parker--detective fiction--fast, funny, and irreverent--great reader candy

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